Lucio Vega is a 32-year-old sculptor and artist from Caracas, Venezuela, who recently moved to Buenos Aires. I caught up with him to chat about some of his work, his relationship with the cartoneros, and getting into trouble at museums.
What materials do you use in your sculptures?
Right now I’m using wood and metal. I use ‘reclaimed’ materials that I can find in the street, in the rubbish or in the reserva. However in the future I’d like to start doing pieces with glass and water. I always utilise one industrial and one natural element; my goal then is to find equilibrium between the two.
What differences have you noted between the Buenos Aires and Caracas art scenes? Do you have a different manner of working?
As I work with materials that I find in the street, the cartoneros make things harder for me here! In Venezuela I would find all the wood and metal I needed easily, but here the cartoneros are very efficient; they leave nothing. Such recycling is good for the environment but not for me! However, I believe that part of being an artist is adapting and dealing with the situation. This is actually one of the reasons why I’m thinking about starting to work with glass and water. I could buy the materials from the places that the cartoneros go to, but the idea is to make use of what the environment gives me.
When making a sculpture, do you set out with an idea of what you want to create or does it depend on the materials you find?
It does depend on the materials available, especially wood, so you can’t plan absolutely everything. For example a few years ago I would do sketches of a sculpture I wished to create, but then get into the workshop and realise it was impossible. Wood has its own energy, its own form, so certain pieces are only suitable for certain things. But like I say, an artist must be flexible; so yes, sculptures can change depending on what materials are found.
Is there a common message or meaning behind your works?
I believe that every artist has an obsession, and mine is to work with a balance of the industrial (metal) and the organic (wood). The industrial represents what is rational, whilst the organic represents what is natural and undetermined. The balance between the two symbolises us as human beings: we are part of nature, but have the power of rational thought.
Your works have some interesting titles (such as ‘El mercado de las pulgas compensa lo divertido de la reserva’ and ‘Si el policía no pregunta, yo sigo con la cara de turista en el galpón que se cae’). Where do they come from?
The names basically come from the fact that I have a bad memory. When I try to think of each material that makes up a piece, I think of where I was when I found it, what I was doing, who I was with. When all these different elements and memories are put together, they form a kind of poetry in my head; one sentence that evokes all the memories of doing that sculpture. They’re not supposed to make sense (in English or Spanish). They’re like the sculptures; there doesn’t have to be any absolute deep meaning, what you see is all there is. I don’t want the public to interact with my pieces by trying to decipher the names, but by actually interacting with the sculptures themselves.
How do you encourage such interaction?
My pieces all move when they’re touched, so I prefer people to play around with them. I hope by encouraging the public to touch and interact with my work, I am breaking down the barrier that separates art from its audience. Sculpture is made for touching. My sculptures move in different ways depending how they’re touched, which reflects on the person who has touched it (whether the touch is hard or soft). Little by little, I’m hoping people become less afraid of reaching out and interacting with art. I’ve already got into trouble at a couple of museums for trying to touch the exhibits.
Where else have you worked and done exhibitions?
All the exhibits I’ve done so far have been in Caracas, except for one that I was invited to in Québec, Canada, one winter. Two friends and I took part in a competition to create something out of snow. It was my first time working with snow but I really liked the material. Once you finish your work, that’s it; the snow will eventually disappear. There’s no contamination and only memories are left behind.
More on Lucio’s work and any future exhibitions can be found at www.luciovega.blogspot.com